Overview: Radioactive Contamination

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Author: Richard Denton, MD

Disclaimer: I am a medical doctor and will concentrate on the medical aspects. I have no conflict of interest as some nuclear physicists might who are paid by the nuclear industry.

Radiation is one of the six crises that this Platform addresses; each one could annihilate civilization as we know it. Radiation could do so in either an acute or chronic manner. The acute effects would come from a major accident, miscalculation, or terrorist attack or an actual nuclear war. The chronic effects are killing by inducing cancers and other medical conditions.

Radiation exposure is of course related to the other five global threat scenarios. Radiation is interconnected as part of a nuclear war that would immediately kill millions from radiation. A nuclear bomb is not just a bigger better bomb but emits radiation that kills locally and at a distance over time. Because of its power, it would put dust and smoke into the stratosphere that would cause a decrease of the sun’s penetration. A “nuclear winter” would result, causing death of millions by famine. Some people suggest that nuclear power is “green” —even the answer to climate change. But nuclear power plants could be a target of terrorists using cyberwarfare or crashing an airliner into a reactor.

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Graphic Shows Problems Managing Radioactive Waste

Dr. Richard Denton has shared this graphic-based report on radioactive waste management with Project Save the World. This report was initially available in French in 2014, but has just been translated to English.

Due to file size limitations, I am unable to embed the material directly into this comment.

https://octet.ca/sgdn/100_millenaires_et_des_poussieres_2020_EN.pdf

China is Reprocessing Plutonium

From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

“Since 1983, China has had the objective of developing breeder reactors to run on recycled plutonium. Since 2004, it has been progressing through three stages of its plutonium recycling strategy: from pilot to demonstration to commercial facilities. At the first stage, in 2010, China began testing a pilot civilian reprocessing plant and running a small experimental fast reactor.

“Although those pilot facilities did not perform well, since 2015 China has moved forward to the second stage, which includes a demonstration reprocessing plant, a mixed-oxide fuel facility, and two demonstration liquid-sodium-cooled fast-neutron reactors. Recent satellite images and other information show construction of those demonstration facilities is actively underway. Meanwhile, the China National Nuclear Corporation is pushing toward the third stage by negotiating with France’s nuclear fuel cycle company Orano (formerly Areva) over the purchase of a large commercial reprocessing plant, and has proposed construction of large commercial fast-neutron reactors by 2028.”

Back in the 1990s, there were proposals to ship American and Russian plutonium to Canada for use at experimental CANDU reactors. What ever happened to this program? It is certainly an alarming notion, as the nuclear waste products from this program would become Canada’s responsibility in the long-term.

Radiation effects on women

Thank you to Dr. Richard Denton – Co-Chair of North America International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War and Chair of Rotarians 4 Nuclear Ban – for sharing Dr. Mary Olson’s recent “Disproportionate Impact of Radiation and Radiation Regulation” article with Project Save the World Team Members. This article identifies critical and valuable information pertaining to gender-based bias in radiation safety guidelines.

Dr. Mary Olson is the Chair of the Gender and Radiation Impact Project.

A Full Version of the Article is Available through Dr. Olson’s Gender and Radiation Impact Project Website: https://www.genderandradiation.org/success-stories

Article Abstract:

“Reference Man is used for generic evaluation of ionizing radiation impacts, regulation, and nuclear licensing decisions made by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (US NRC). The United States Code of Federal Regulations, 2018 edition, Chapter 10: Part 20 ‘Standards for Protection Against Radiation’ contains eight references to ‘reference man’ as the basis for regulation and calculation of radiation exposure. The document was accessed January 9, 2019 (https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CFR-2018-title10-vol1/pdf/CFR-2018-title10-vol1-part20.pdf). Findings from 60 years of A-bomb survivor data show that Reference Man does not represent the human life cycle with respect to harm from radiation exposure. Findings reported here show females are more harmed by radiation, particularly when exposed as young girls, than is predicted by use of Reference Man; the difference is a much as 10-fold. Since females have been ignored in regulatory analysis, this has resulted in systematic under-reporting of harm from ionizing radiation exposure in the global population. A critique is also offered on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to include females in its regulation. Recommendations for interim regulation to provide better protection, and questions for further study are offered.”

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dfyosBnR8l1RoWAN8AU3dIBN9endTEOU/view

Radioactivity in Port Hope

Here are excerpts of an article by Robert Del Tredici and Gordon Edwards
Glimpses of Nuclear Ontario
Author: Del Tredici, Robert and Edwards, Gordon
Canadian Centre for Architecture


Cameco.

“Eighteen thousand people live in picturesque Port Hope on the north shore of Lake Ontario, an hour’s drive from Toronto. The town is host to one of the oldest and largest uranium chemical processing facilities on the planet, located not far from the downtown shopping district. In the background of the image above are the two key uranium conversion facilities: the smaller structure, on the left, processes uranium for domestic use; the larger building, on the right, processes uranium for exports worldwide.

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Pandemic in the Nuclear Forces

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reminds us that Covid 19 affects the nuclear industries too. Does that worry you?

How nuclear forces worldwide are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic
By John Krzyzaniak
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, April 14, 2020

Excerpt:
In recent weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has elicited at least a few tone-deaf comments from top US defense officials about the readiness of their nuclear forces. In mid-March, the commander of US Strategic Command, Adm. Charles Richard, reassured his audience that the United States’ nuclear forces had not been adversely affected by the pandemic and that they “remain ready to execute the nation’s strategic deterrence mission.” In effect, Adm. Richard was telling his audience that the United States was still capable of launching a massive nuclear retaliation that would undoubtedly kill millions. Similarly, at the beginning of April, the commander of the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command told Popular Mechanics that, despite the COVID-19 outbreak, “its nukes are still ready to fly.” These officials were apparently oblivious to the notion that, with the pandemic already causing enough fear and dread on its own, now may not be the best time to remind the general public about other ways the world could end.

The rhetoric notwithstanding, the US nuclear mission and its analogues around the world rely heavily on people, and people are exactly what the virus is after. Just a few days after Adm. Richard gave his briefing, Newsweek reported that “units feeding [US Strategic Command] have a cumulative 106 uniformed personnel not on duty due to coronavirus, either because of confirmed cases or ‘protective self-quarantine.’” On April 9, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at Federation of American Scientists, tweeted that all US nuclear bases except one had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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New England Survives Without Nuclear Power
By Michael Steinberg
OBrag, 17 April 2020
Article Excerpt(s):

“On April 3 the Connecticut Mirror reported “Most New England nuclear power offline due to timing fluke problem.” There are only two nuke plants still (sometimes) operating in the region, Seabrook in New Hampshire with one reactor and Millstone in Connecticut with two.

On March 31 the 1245 Megawatt shut down for refueling. The next day the 1230 Unit 3 reactor at Millstone had a mishap that forced it to shut down as well.

As a result, by April 3, the Mirror reported, the grid showed nuclear at 8% and natural gas (usually derived with fracking) at a whopping 68%. Nuclear usually contributed a third of the electricity to the grid. So at this time New England was without 75% of its nuclear power. Only the 45 year old Millstone 2 reactor was still going. Nuclear reactors are designed to last only 40 years.
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Sellafield’s Own Plutonium

Britain has 139 tons of plutonium. That’s a real problem.
By Christopher Fichtlscherer and Moritz Kütt
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 17 April 2020

Sellafield, UK.
Article Excerpt(s):

“The United Kingdom’s last plutonium reprocessing plant, B205, located in Sellafield in northern England, will shut down by the end of 2020. It will bring an end to the era of plutonium separation in the country, which began 68 years ago. Because the United Kingdom never used any of the material it recouped from reprocessing except in nuclear weapons, today it has amassed a stockpile of almost 139 metric tons of separated plutonium.

This creates lasting problems: Plutonium stored in Sellafield is highly toxic and poses a permanent risk of proliferation. It is enough material to build tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. According to parliamentary estimates, storage will cost the British government about 73 million pounds a year for the next century. But after decades of public and private consultation, there is still no accepted plan for its disposition. In the meantime, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is working on the consolidation of the stockpiles in Sellafield and developing the capability to retreat the packages to allow for long-term storage once the government makes a final decision on permanent disposal. The United Kingdom views the material as a resource and is pursuing options that involve burning the plutonium in reactors, even though multiple assessments have shown risks associated with such a choice, namely immature concepts and technology. A better alternative would be to treat it as waste and begin planning for its permanent immobilization and burial.

Where did it come from? In the beginning, the British plutonium separation program was justified by military needs. A few years later, nuclear euphoria led to an increasing number of civil nuclear power plants and to dreams of nuclear-powered cars and planes. It was predicted that uranium resources would not be able to fulfill the need. As a result, the idea of a “closed” fuel cycle was born: instead of using nuclear fuel once and throwing it away, the spent fuel is reprocessed and reused in (mostly fast) reactors. In theory, this would allow greater utilization of uranium. However, the concept has never been demonstrated on an industrial scale, and only a few countries still aim at closing the nuclear fuel cycle.

From 1956 until 2015 the United Kingdom operated 26 Magnox reactors for commercial use. Magnox reactors are fueled with natural uranium, moderated by graphite, cooled by carbon dioxide gas, and designed in a way for efficient plutonium production. A pilot reprocessing plant, B204, started operation in 1952 and was replaced in 1964 by the B205 reprocessing plant. Combined, the two plants have separated more than 85 metric tons of plutonium from spent fuel.
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Russia, China Willing To Fund Nuclear Projects In Africa

Farai Shawn Matiashe

“Faced with power shortfalls, demands for greener energy and drought threats to hydropower, a growing number of African countries are considering a shift to an unexpected power source – nuclear energy.

South Africa has the continent’s only commercial nuclear power plant. But according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a third of the 30 countries around the world considering adopting nuclear power are in Africa.

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Bathing in Radon!

Radon baths are considered a therapeutic health treatment in several Central and European countries. These baths are with water infused with radon, often sourced from nearby mines and springs. This is alarming as the radon will eventually become aerosolized and subsequently be inhaled, where it can cause significant damage due to alpha radiation (among other classes of radiation) emissions.

Despite this risk of inhalation, a number of national and regional health agencies subsidize this therapeutic treatment – which is allegedly particularly popular among residents of former Soviet states and more recently, Middle Easterners. Two of the most popular sites for this treatment are Jácymov, Czechia and Khmilnyk, Ukraine – where a number of spas offer the service.

While employees of the spa and participants of the allegedly therapeutic treatments laud the radon baths, researchers elsewhere have expressed concerns of the risks of radon exposure (which is known to be linked to increased rates of lung cancer), particularly via the inhalation of aerosolized radon during baths.

Why is this being subsidized by health agencies?
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Wildfire near Chernobyl

In April 2020 forest fires are out of control near Chernobyl. They were caused by someone burning garbage and grass. If they damage Pripyat, this would threaten tourism revenue, which has become a significant component of the local economy since the disaster.

As I write, fires are approximately two kilometers from the former nuclear power plant and radioactive waste site.

Area Of Chernobyl Wildfire Triples In Size
TASS: Russian News Agency, 7 April 2020
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Renfrew Citizens Want Nuclear Safety

Groups Urge Trudeau To Fix Serious Gaps In Nuclear Safety And Governance
By Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, 8 April 2020

Notes: Dr. Gordon Edwards – the author of the 3 April 2020 letter referenced in this news release – has been a participant in several episodes of Project Save the World’s podcast. Dr. Edwards’ 3 April 2020 letter – additionally linked below – is available here: http://ccnr.org/Letter_Trudeau_03_04_2020_e.pdf

Article Excerpt(s):

“For immediate release (Montreal, April 8, 2020) Three independent organizations — the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and the Ottawa River Institute – have written to the Prime Minister saying that Canada’s nuclear safety standards and nuclear governance are failing to adequately protect Canadians from dozens of dangerous radioactive pollutants from nuclear facilities.

An April 3rd letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cites serious deficiencies in Canada’s nuclear safety framework and nuclear governance that require urgent attention by government. The authors draw on the contents of a recent report to the government by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on nuclear safety in Canada.

The IAEA review of Canada’s nuclear safety framework found that “CNSC regulations do not comprehensively cover all IAEA Fundamental Safety Requirements.” The report confirmed several concerns raised previously by Canadian public interest groups.
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Nadezhda and the Victims of Mayak

Human rights activist Nadezhda Kutepova did significant work for the victims of Mayak in Russia until she had to flee to Paris as a human rights refugee. Watch her astonishing interview with Al Jazeera.

Nadezhda Kutepova: Life In Russia’s Secret Nuclear City
Al Jazeera, 16 December 2017
Link: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2017/12/nadezhda-kutepova-life-russia-secret-nuclear-city-171214121737252.html

Preserving Old Nuclear Weapons Films

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is digitizing and re-analyzing old nuclear test films. Dr. Greg Spriggs – a weapons physicist – is leading the project, which has partnered with archivists and film preservation experts, including Dr. Jim Moye. Many of the old film reels documenting the nuclear weapons tests are disintegrating from age and radiation exposure.

Dr. Spriggs has noted that the early bomb yield calculations (essentially the calculations determining how powerful the nuclear weapon is/was) was done by hand (with the assistance of a Kodagraph) during the mid-twentieth century (1940s – 1960s) and often at fast speeds (likely due to military, political, and societal pressure). This has resulted in calculation errors of the bombs’ yields. In some circumstances, a bomb’s yield is/was off by as much as 30%.

Three particular reasons (among many other reasons) that this is alarming include:

1) A significant amount of the contamination in the Marshall Islands was noted to have been caused by a “miscalculation” and “misfiring” of an United States nuclear weapon or nuclear weapons in the late 1960s. Is it possible these errors – and subsequently some of the massive regional radioactive contamination – were due to inaccurately analyzed test films and rushed calculations? Dr. Spriggs notes that the cloud height – depicted in the films – can be used to estimate nuclear fallout – and that the calculations for cloud heights were additionally off by as much as 10-15%. Dr. Spriggs notes – in The Verge interview – that many scientists were simply “eyeballing” the size of the explosions at this time.

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This is a fascinating interview – from Radio Canada International in 2010 – by Dr. Gordon Edwards on the risks of forest fires in areas with radioactive materials and/or environmental radioactive contamination. If you have ten minutes to spare, please take a listen to it.

Link: http://www.ccnr.org/Wildfires_2010_08.mp3

The Swiss are Quitting Nuclear

Switzerland Switches Off Nuclear Plant As It Begins Exit from Atomic Power Reuters, 20 December 2019

Article Excerpt:

“MUEHLEBERG, Switzerland (Reuters) – Switzerland’s Muehleberg nuclear power station went off the grid on Friday after 47 years, marking the end of an era as the shutdown starts the country’s exit from atomic power.

The 373-megawatt-capacity plant which opened in 1972 has generated enough electricity to cover the energy consumption of the nearby city of Bern for more than 100 years.

In scenes shown live on Swiss TV, at 12.30 pm (1130 GMT) a technician pressed two buttons in the control room to stop the chain reaction and deactivate the reactor, shutting down the plant for good.

The closure is the first of Switzerland’s five nuclear reactors to be shuttered following the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, which triggered safety concerns about nuclear power around the world.

Neighboring Germany is due to abandon nuclear power stations by 2022, while Switzerland’s government has said it would build no new nuclear reactors and decommission its existing plants at their end of their lifespan.
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In deep boreholes? No.

Nuclear waste disposal: Why the case for deep boreholes is … full of holes
By Lindsay Krall
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 26 March 2020

Article Excerpt(s):

“Many challenges to the viability of borehole disposal stem from the limit that modern drilling techniques impose on borehole diameters. Although the precise borehole geometry is dependent on location-specific geologic variables, deeper boreholes generally necessitate smaller diameters. Such a limitation has implications both in terms of the barrier system that surrounds the nuclear fuel and in terms of the ability to fully characterize the geology of the disposal site.

To accommodate canisters whose diagonal cross-section has a length of 30 centimeters, the diameter of Deep Isolation’s curving boreholes must be larger than 40 centimeters. Since this exceeds the 22-centimeter standard for oil and gas extraction, the technical feasibility of Deep Isolation’s drilling scheme remains unclear. But if it is feasible, then a 40-centimeter diameter borehole would restrict the thickness of the canister walls to about one centimeter. As compared to deep-mined repositories, which could accept canisters with walls thicker than 5 centimeters, thin-walled canisters will have adverse safety consequences for the workers who will load the waste into the boreholes. Therefore, potential worker exposures to and environmental releases of radioactivity during canister loading warrants careful consideration.
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The Dene and Uranium Mining at Great Bear Lake

They Never Told Us These Things
By Julie Salverson,
Maisonneuve Magazine, 12 August 2011

Article Excerpt(s):

“Long ago, there was a famous rock called Somba Ke—“The Money Place”—on the eastern shore of Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. Loud noises came from this place and it was bad medicine to pass near it. In the old days, a group of caribou hunters camped at Somba Ke for a night. One of them—a man named Ehtséo Ayah, known in his community as “Grandfather”—had a dream and saw many strange things: men with white faces climbing into a big hole in the ground, a great flying bird, a big stick dropped on people far away. This would happen sometime in the future, after we are all gone, the prophet said. In his vision, everyone died. Everyone burned.

Theresa Baton recounts this tale, recorded by the elder George Blondin, as we sit in her narrow, smoky trailer. There is a framed photo of Ayah on the sideboard. Baton is a strikingly beautiful woman, as slender and fit as her husband, Peter. They are two of the few Dene grandparents left alive in Déline, an indigenous community of several hundred people in the Northwest Territories. In the waning days of World War II, the people of Déline and the white miners working at nearby Port Radium ferried bags of uranium ore from the Eldorado mine—where Somba Ke once sat—across Great Bear Lake. The ninety-pound sacks were carried on men’s backs, loaded onto boats and transported about two thousand kilometres south to Alberta. The crushed ore was refined in Port Hope, Ontario. Then it was sent to the Manhattan Project in New Mexico, where it was used to develop the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Few Canadians know about their country’s role in one of history’s most destructive acts of war.

The day before I visit the Batons, their neighbour Isadore Yukon—who transported the sacks by boat—tells me his arms would get red from the ore, and he’d grow so exhausted crossing back and forth over the lake that he’d lie down on the bags to sleep. Peter and Theresa moved to Déline a long time ago, and the uranium mine closed in the early 1960s. Theresa says that when they lived at Port Radium, the women would make tents from the sacks for their families to sleep in. There has been a lot of illness since then, and many deaths from cancer. Déline has come to be called the “Village of Widows.” The town’s surviving elders say the prophet Ayah warned them. These are people who still have no word for radiation.

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The Dene Apologized for Hiroshima

Yes, Canada contributed to the development of nuclear weapons. And there were harsh effects of the uranium mining on the Dene (First Nations) people of Northwest Territories.

Canada’s Uranium Highway: Victims and Perpetrators
By Sean Howard
Cape Breton Spectator, 7 August 2019

Article Excerpt(s):

“On numerous occasions in recent decades, Canadian governments have apologized for a host of egregious wrongdoings.

While such words of contrition are too often unaccompanied by adequate actions, they can help make visible, as Trudeau argued in his 2017 apology, the “hard truths” Canadian society needs to confront.

Yet the most extraordinary apology in Canadian history was surely that offered by the victims of systematic mistreatment by the Canadian government to the victims of a crime against humanity they unknowingly helped others commit. For on 6 August 1998, 10 members of the small Sahtúgot’ine Dene community of Déline (Fort Franklin) in the ‘Northwest Territories’ apologized in Hiroshima for the atomic destruction of that city – and the death of over 200,000 civilians – exactly 53 years earlier by a bomb made in part from uranium from their land.

The Dene didn’t even mine the stuff, a role reserved for the all-white below-ground workforce of Eldorado Gold Mines Ltd., placed under state control during World War Two. They were allowed only to help it on its long and winding way, 3,000 miles by river, lake, road and air, from Port Radium on Great Bear Lake to Port Hope on Lake Ontario, where, from 1942-45, the suddenly precious ore – the ‘new gold’ of the atomic age – was, together with ‘Belgian’ uranium from the Congo, refined and dispatched to Los Alamos, the desert lab in New Mexico secretly building the new, city-smashing Superweapon.

There, as Concordia professor Peter van Wyck chronicles in his 2010 study The Highway of the Atom, it “made its transformed debut at Alamogordo,” site of the Trinity test of 16 July 1945 (‘The Day the Sun Rose Twice’, an “entrance reprised shortly afterward, over the clear morning skies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

The existence of this epic road to hell was unsuspected by the Dene until long after Eldorado stopped mining for radium and uranium in 1960. Beginning in the 1970s, and spiking sharply in the 1980s, many of the men who had handled and carried the ore – and the men who had mined it – began to die from cancer, raising obvious questions about health and safety which soon led in shocking directions.

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The Nuclear Workforce during the Pandemic

Covid-19 Could Cause Staff Shortages in the Nuclear Power Industry
By Charles Digges
Bellona (Nuclear Issues), 20 March 2020

Article Excerpt(s):

“As the Covid-19 virus grinds world economies to a halt, several national nuclear operators are weighing how to keep sensitive and vulnerable infrastructure chugging along in the face of staff shortages due to the illness.

A number of national contingency plans, if enacted, could mark an unprecedented step by nuclear power providers to keep their highly-skilled workers healthy as governments scramble to minimize the impact of the global pandemic that has infected more than 240,000 people worldwide.

Officials in the United States, for instance, have suggested they might isolate critical technicians at the country’s nuclear power plants and ask them to live onsite to avoid exposure to the virus. Many operators say they have been stockpiling beds, blankets and food to support staff for that purpose.

Should that fail to stem the pandemic’s effect on the nuclear work force, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it would shut down any of America’s 60 nuclear plants if they can’t be appropriately staffed.

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American Nuclear Waste

Fred Pearce – the author of “Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age” (2018) published the following article in The Atlantic in May 2018. The article discusses the legacy of decades of nuclear waste from nuclear power plants across the United States.

The 60-Year Downfall of Nuclear Power in the U.S. Has Left a Huge Mess

By Fred Pearce
The Atlantic, 28 May 2018
Link: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/05/the-60-year-downfall-of-nuclear-power-in-the-us-has-left-a-huge-mess/560945/

The CBC Recounts the Dene Plight

CBC’s Canada: A People’s History reveals Canada’s connection to the production of the atomic bombs used on Hiroshima (Japan) and Nagasaki (Japan) via uranium mining.

Mining for a Bomb
By CBC – Canada: A People’s History, 2001

Article Excerpt(s):

“Canada supplies uranium for the development of the U.S. atomic bomb, while native-Canadian miners work in clouds of radioactive dusk

One of Canadas biggest contributions to the war effort remained shrouded in secrecy in early 1940s. And the secret would devastate the northern Canadian natives who were hired to mine a deadly metal called uranium.
In 1942, a group of scientists led by physicist Enrico Fermi used a pile of uranium and graphite in an abandoned squash court at the University of Chicago to demonstrate the first controlled nuclear chain reaction.

The experiment launched the Manhattan Project, the race to build an atomic bomb during the Second World War. Fundamental to the American military’s work was a ready supply of uranium, a deadly radioactive element crucial to the construction of nuclear weapons. The Americans contacted their Canadian allies to fulfill the needs.

Years earlier, Gerald Labine had found uranium on the remote shores of Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. Hed closed the mine at the outbreak of war but in 1942 received a phone call from C.D. Howe, the Minister of Munitions and Supply and the mastermind behind Canadas economic war transformation.

“I want you to reopen,” Howe told Labine. “Get together the most trustworthy people you can find. The Canadian Government will give you whatever money is required… And for God’s sake don’t even tell your wife what you’re doing.”

The ore was mined by the Dene, a semi-nomadic people who followed the migratory caribou herds. The miners were paid three dollars a day to haul forty-five kilogram sacks of ore out to barges on the Mackenzie River for the long trip to the United States. The Dene called the grey stone the “money rock.”

By the end of 1943, the mine was operating at full capacity, producing the 60 tonnes of uranium oxide requested by the Americans. Paul Baton worked for three months in clouds of the radioactive dust.
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Radioactive Geysers?

There’s a risk of radioactive-contaminated geysers forming in areas with buried nuclear waste products – especially if subterranean storage silos flood. This is due to the radioactive-materials heating the groundwater and is coined the Yellowstone Effect.

“According to the report, if the superheated silos are flooded, they could potentially erupt with deadly radioactive steam geysers. The phenomenon has been dubbed “The Yellowstone Effect,” because the geysers are likely to mimic the action of the famous “Old Faithful” geyser at Yellowstone National Park. According to Edison’s own documents, the beachfront nuclear waste storage facility is subject to flooding and bluff collapse.
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If your nuclear delivery truck is stuck in a traffic jam…

Here’s the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discussing the risks of transporting nuclear and/or radioactive materials.

A Moving Target: Nuclear Security During Transport
By Inna Pletukhina
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) News, 24 January 2020

The article identifies that even minor variables – such as a small traffic collision – can have significant impacts. The article additionally acknowledges the challenges of unpredictable variables in the modelling of transportation safety protocols. 

Article Excerpt(s):

“Nuclear and other radioactive material is hardest to protect when it is transported from point A to point B — more than half of the incidents of theft of radioactive material reported to the IAEA between 1993 and 2019 occurred while it was in transport.

How to further strengthen nuclear security during transport is one of the topics that will be discussed at the IAEA’s upcoming International Conference on Nuclear Security: Sustaining and Strengthening Efforts (ICONS 2020). The conference will provide a forum for ministers, policymakers, senior officials and experts to discuss current approaches and priorities for nuclear security.

“There are a lot of moving parts when transporting these materials, which makes them an appealing target for theft or sabotage,” said David Ladsous, Head of the Transport Security Unit at the IAEA. “Secure transport at every step is essential to ensuring society can continue to benefit from these materials, while keeping them out of the hands of terrorists or criminals.”
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Getting into the Waste Storage Business?


A tunnel at Yucca Mountain

Northwest Public Broadcasting spells out proposals for managing nuclear waste. What do you think of letting private companies handle the nuclear waste management?

As Nuclear Waste Piles Up, Private Companies Pitch New Ways To Store It
By Jeff Brady
Northwest Public Broadcasting, 2 May 2019

Notes: Discusses the Peace Bottom Atomic Power Station in Delta, Pennsylvania. Some interesting graphics are included in the article!

Article Excerpt(s):

Congress is once again debating how to dispose of the country’s growing inventory of nuclear waste. Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso is proposing legislation that would jumpstart licensing hearings for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada. The Trump administration also is asking Congress for money to resume work on that decades-old project.

But that may not end local opposition or a longstanding political stalemate. And in the meantime, nuclear plants are running out of room to store spent fuel.

Running Out Of Room

The Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in South Central Pennsylvania illustrates the problem. It’s one of 80 sites, across dozens of states, where nearly 80,000 metric tons of waste from power plants is stored where it was generated, at taxpayer expense.
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Nuclear Courtship of Indigenous Communities

The Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) recently released a two-part documentary called “Nuclear Courtship” which discusses plans for a deep geological repository (nuclear waste dump) in Northern Ontario. The documentary is quite interesting and I recommend checking it out. It is available at these links:

Part One: https://aptnnews.ca/2020/02/07/indigenous-communities-courted-as-nuclear-industry-looks-for-place-to-put-used-fuel/

Part Two: https://aptnnews.ca/2020/02/14/opportunity-for-youth-or-sacrifice-zone-community-reaction-to-nuclear-waste-burial-plan-is-mixed/

Radioactivity Dumped Near the Columbia River

2.5 Million Pounds Of Radioactive Waste Illegally Dumped In Oregon Landfill Near Columbia River
By Monica Samayoa
Northwest Public Broadcasting, 15 February 2020

Article Excerpt:

“Goodnight Midstream provides brine water supply and recycling services to the oil and gas industry for fracking operations. The liquid that Chemical Waste Management had received had been in contact with rocks underground that contained radium, said ODOE’s nuclear waste remediation specialist Jeff Burright.

“Then they filtered that water so that they can reuse it, that radium was captured in what are known as filter socks, which are very long teabags if you will, and it accumulated there and what we’ve gathered is about 80% of the total waste consisted of these filter socks,” Burright said.
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France tested nuclear weapons in Algeria


This is ground zero for French nuclear test in the Sahara

The Algerian tests (Ekker and Reganne) totaled 17 tests during the early and mid-1960s. Testing of the atomic bomb stopped in Algeria in 1966.

For a few links to articles about these tests:

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12 Years And Counting: Effort To Lock Hanford’s Radioactive Waste In Glass Faces More Delays

By John Stang
Crosscut, 14 February 2019

Article Excerpt:
“Already 12 years behind schedule, a project at the Hanford nuclear complex meant to transform millions of gallons of radioactive waste into benign glass faces yet another delay.

Since the 1990s, Washington state has been prodding the U.S. Department of Energy to build two “glassification” plants at Hanford that would permanently contain the waste stored in aging tanks on the site. Delays have added to the cost of the project, now estimated at $17 billion.

Glassification was supposed to begin in 2007. On the current schedule, lower-level radioactive waste wouldn’t be entombed in glass cylinders until 2023. And the high-level radioactive wastes? At present, glassification of that waste is set to begin in 2036, 29 years behind the original deadline.

The Energy Department wants to push that target back even further, and last month began negotiations with state leaders to do so. Those negotiations are also expected to address whether additional tanks must be built to hold the waste, a move the state supports, but which the DOE has been reluctant to adopt

“We want to try to come up with a schedule that doesn’t have to be revised every few years,” said Suzanne Dahl, section manager for tank waste management with the state Department of Ecology. Dahl noted that the longer the project takes, the more it will cost the federal government.

Located dead center in the 584-square-mile Hanford Nuclear Reservation is the most radiologically and chemically polluted spot in the Western Hemisphere. The site’s 177 underground tanks hold 56 million gallons of radioactive fluids, sludges and chunks, mixtures of roughly 100 different substances.

Hanford’s 149 single-shell tanks are all beyond their design lives, and at least 67 have leaked. More than 1 million gallons of waste have seeped into the ground in a plume extending toward the Columbia River, seven miles away. Some of the leaked waste has reached the river.

The site also has 28 newer, safer double-shell tanks, which are now at the end of their design lives. The inner shell has leaked in one of the double-shell tanks, rendering it useless.

Since the mid-1990s, Hanford’s master plan has been to build a facility to mix and melt the waste with glass flakes to encase the radioactive substances in huge glass logs capable of holding in the radiation for 10,000 years. The basic concept has been to create a pretreatment plant to separate highly radioactive waste from less radioactive, or “low-activity,” waste. A glassification plant would be built for each stream.

Roughly one-third of Hanford’s radioactive waste can be tackled in the low-activity waste facility, Dahl said. Another third is encased in salt cakes, which must be dissolved before the waste can be processed at the low-activity waste plant. The final third is just too radioactive and must wait until the high-level waste plant is up and running.

Construction of the glassification complex began in 2002. The cost of the project has increased from $4 billion in 2000 to about $17 billion today.

The Department of Ecology and Energy Department have anticipated new delays in the high-level waste glassification facility.

In late 2017, the Energy Department told the state it had concerns about the plants’ costs and design risks, hinting start-up of the low-activity waste plant could be 2024 instead of 2023. However, Dahl and Alex Smith, the Department of Ecology nuclear program manager, recently said in an interview that the state still expects the low-activity waste plant to open in 2023.

In May, Maia Bellon, director of the Department of Ecology, wrote to Ann White, who resigned a few days later as the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for environmental management. Bellon expressed concerns that the Energy Department could miss key deadlines. The federal department had agreed to have the main pretreatment plant running by 2033, and the high-level waste treatment plant would be ready by 2036. In September, it told the state it has concerns about meeting those deadlines.

“All this caused extensive heartburn at the state level,” Dahl said

In a statement to Crosscut, an Energy Department spokesperson said “the potential interplay” of otherwise manageable factors in the high-level waste glassification project requires a delay out of “an abundance of caution.” The department did not elaborate on those factors.

Tom Carpenter, executive director of the Seattle-based watchdog organization Hanford Challenge, contended that a major problem is that the Energy Department accepted a flawed approach to the glassification project at the turn of the century.

A basic piece of the project’s design is the use of black cells — sections that will become too radioactive for humans to enter — which would greatly hamper any work to fix inevitable mechanical and chemical troubles or replace equipment. Carpenter said the project should have adopted an approach used in plutonium processing plants built during World War II and the Cold War. Each plant contains a battleship-sized room called a “canyon,” with massive cranes set up to reach and move every piece of radioactive equipment in the massive chamber.

Carpenter also noted that having a single main pretreatment plant is a bottleneck.

The Energy Department is working on building a second, small pretreatment facility for the low-activity waste glassification plant. That quick-to-be-built facility will filter out cesium 137, one of the highly radioactive substances in the tank wastes. The Energy Department hopes that removing the cesium will be enough to convert some highly radioactive wastes to low-activity wastes.

Meanwhile, state officials argue that the feds have not funded the glassification effort at the level everyone agreed, almost two decades ago, was needed to keep the project on schedule.

The glassification complex’s annual budget has held steady at $690 million since the project began, despite predictions that the appropriation needed to be increased to keep construction on track. The state said it does not have a definitive figure on how much the annual budget should have grown; a 2011 Department of Ecology estimate suggested it would need to reach up to $900 million. No increase ever materialized.

Another problem has been the quality of construction.

In 2010, Walt Tamosaitis, an employee of the subcontractor designing the pretreatment plant, URS Corp., told his superiors and managers at lead contractor Bechtel National that several design problems had not been solved.

There was risk of hydrogen gas explosions that could bend and burst pipes in the plant, spraying radioactive fluids. Radioactive sludges could clog the pipes and tanks in the plant, increasing the chance of uncontrolled releases of radiation. And there was a risk of corrosion causing leaks in the pretreatment plant.

Tamosaitis’ superiors told the Energy Department that the design problems were fixed as of July 1, 2010 — over Tamosaitis’s protests but in time for Bechtel to collect a $5 million bonus from the department.

For raising the alarm, Tamosaitis alleges, he was demoted and exiled to an insignificant offsite job. He filed a lawsuit against Bechtel, alleging illegal retaliation, eventually winning a $4.1 million settlement. Meanwhile in 2011 and 2012, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a technical advisory body monitoring the Energy Department, and the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, confirmed Tamosaitis’ concerns.

In 2015, the Energy Department announced that it would not have the entire complex operational by the 2022 deadline. It pointed to the same issues Tamosaitis had identified.

The state contends the Energy Department needs to install two to four new underground tanks at an estimated cost of $100 million each. So far, the Energy Department has been disinclined to do so and has not budgeted for them. The state wants to tackle the matter during the ongoing negotiations, though the federal department has been noncommittal.

Waste will have to be shifted between the tanks before it is funneled into the low-activity waste plant. Water is sometimes sprayed into the tanks to break up solid wastes, another process that requires extra tanks to hold the liquids. At the same time, the specter looms of additional leaks showing up in the inner shells of the double-shell tanks.

Carpenter fears that the continual delays will prompt the feds to give up on glassification and return to a previously rejected cheaper method, encasing waste in concrete grout.

Carpenter said discussions have popped up in federal circles that grout should be considered again as a quicker, cheaper and less-headache-inducing approach. “Their fallback for all of that is concrete. All you hear is ‘grout, grout, grout,’ ” he said.

Concrete has a lifespan of decades, not millennia, before it falls apart, Carpenter said. “It’s not going to last,” he said. “These radionuclides have [lifespans of] hundreds of thousands of years, or even millions of years.”

The state-federal negotiations are tentatively set to be finished no later than July 31 [2020].”

Link: https://crosscut.com/2019/11/12-years-and-counting-effort-lock-hanfords-radioactive-waste-glass-faces-more-delays
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Schools of Mass Destruction!

Summary Excerpt:

“Universities across the United States are identified in this new report for activities ranging from directly managing laboratories that design nuclear weapons to recruiting and training the next generation of nuclear weapons scientists. Much of universities’ nuclear weapons work is kept secret from students and faculty by classified research policies and undisclosed contracts with the Defense Department and the Energy Department.

The goal of the report is to spark ethical reflection and action about institutional and individual involvement in the nuclear weapons complex. Specifically, the report recommends:

1) Provide greater transparency into connections with the nuclear weapons complex;

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The Endless Saga of Yucca Mountain

The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Site Has Always Been A Political Football. Trump Is The Latest President To Fumble
By Allison Macfarlane
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 21 February 2020


Tunnel in Yucca Mountain

Notes: Discusses the ongoing challenge that the Yucca Mountain site poses – as well as the need for political innovation in the field of nuclear waste management and storage.

Article Excerpt:

“As with much policy-setting in the Trump administration, a single tweet from the president on February 6 appeared to reverse a previous stance. The message about Yucca Mountain, the nation’s proposed geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive waste, set the media alight with speculation about new actions in US nuclear waste policy. But has anything changed, really?

The new policy, if it is such a thing, is a little wobbly. It’s unclear whether the administration is or is not supporting Yucca Mountain as a waste repository. The Energy Department’s Undersecretary for Nuclear Energy and nominee for Deputy Secretary, Mark Menezes, stated six days later in a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing that “what we’re trying to do is to put together a process that will give us a path to permanent storage at Yucca.” A White House official tried to square the circle of conflicting messages, stating: “There is zero daylight between the President and Undersecretary Menezes on the issue.”

At the same time, Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget did not include funds for Yucca Mountain, unlike in previous years. In point of fact, though, Congress has not appropriated funding for Yucca Mountain in the past decade. The proposed repository site made it about halfway through the licensing process at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and halted when the Obama administration’s Energy Department tried to pull the license application. The state of Nevada still strongly opposes Yucca Mountain and hasn’t changed its tune since passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act Amendments in 1987 (colloquially known in Nevada as the Screw Nevada Bill), which designated Yucca Mountain as the proposed repository site.

Trump’s tweet acknowledges the fierce and long-standing opposition to Yucca Mountain in a swing state he lost by a slim margin in 2016. The Democratic presidential candidates are unanimously opposed to storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.
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Can Hemp Save Us?

Activists should all tune occasionally to the Nuclear Hotseat podcast, which is produced by Libbe HaLevy. Here’s part of one astonishing episode, number 449: Hemp: Can It Remediate Plutonium? Rockey Flats Project with Tiffany Hansen

In Rocky Flats, Colorado hemp is being used to bioremediate and phytoremediate radioactively contaminated soils. Rocky Flats is a former nuclear weapons manufacturing complex near Denver, Colorado.

Plants are known to be effective bioremediators (phytoremediation) in environmentally contaminated zones – though the plants themselves then become radioactive – leading to questions of what to do with radioactive plant materials after bioremediation projects. There are additionally questions about whether some plant species are more effective bioremediators and phytoremediators than others.

Nuclear Hotseat links to a website by Rocky Flats Downwinders which discusses this hemp bioremediation and phytoremediation project. Here is that site:

Rocky Flats Downwinders
http://rockyflatsdownwinders.com/rocky-flats-hemp-phytoremediation-project/

Article Excerpt / Notes:

A bill was passed on 18 January 2020 by the Colorado House of Representatives to study hemp’s potential in bioremediation and phytoremediation of contaminated soils.

It is additionally interesting to hear the Rockly Flats hemp bioremediation/phytoremediation project is partnered with Dr. Michael E. Ketterer of Northern Arizona University- who has previous experience researching radioactive (plutonium) contaminated environments. This partnership additionally includes regional hemp-related businesses. I sought to locate more information about the potential benefits of hemp versus other plant species in bioremediation and phytoremediation projects. There are a lot of cannabis-related activists groups and cannabis-related blogs which have re-published materials on hemp’s benefits as a bioremediator and phytoremediator. However, the source data was not immediately clear on some of these websites. Here’s the book source:

American Hemp: How Growing Our Newest Cash Crop Can Improve Our Health, Clean Our Environment, and Slow Climate Change
Chapter 8: Hemp Cures Poisoned Land
by Jen Hobbs, 16 April 2019. Skyhorse

Notes:

This chapter discusses how hemp grown in areas with heavy metal contamination can subsequently result in heavy metal poisoning upon consumption – due to the plant absorbing environmental contaminants. This chapter additionally discusses experiments in the context of Chernonbyl (1998 onward) which discovered hemp will bioremediate/phytoremediate not just heavy metals, but radioactive materials as well. A list of hemp-related environmental remediation projects is provided as well.

Processing Uranium in the Neighborhood?

On 3 and 4 March 2020, a two-day public hearing will be taking place regarding the renewal of BWXT’s operating license. BWXT operates two uranium processing plants which are up for licensing review – one in Peterborough ON and one in Toronto ON. Both of these are in increasingly dense residential neighbourhoods. The uranium processing plant in Peterborough ON is across the street from the Prince of Wales Public (Elementary) School and has requested to double the size of the plant via a licensing provision that would allow the Toronto operations to move to Peterborough if the Toronto plant closes down. Alarming – considering the adjacent residential areas and schools. The plant in Toronto is near Dupont Street and Lansdowne Avenue and is going to have new residential developments immediately across the street. Significant concerns have arisen around the transparency of the plant regarding operations – as well as response procedures should an emergency situation (explosion, fire, etc.) unfold. Is it time to move these uranium processing plants out of residential areas?

The Toronto Star recently published an article on community response to this matter.
This Toronto Plant Makes Fuel for Ontario Nuclear Reactors. A group of Davenport Neighbours Want It Gone
By Patty Winsa
The Toronto Star, 16 February 2020

Article Excerpt:

Chris Muir can see the roofline of a storage building that houses radioactive uranium dioxide powder from his backyard in Toronto’s west-end.

The building is part of a nondescript plant on Lansdowne Avenue, north of Dupont Street, where more than half the uranium pellets that fuel Ontario’s nuclear reactors are made each year by BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada.

Muir said he knew the plant was there when he bought his house in 2015, but he is now one of a chorus of community members who are asking the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to deny BWXT’s application to renew its licence for 10 years.

He made up his mind at a public information meeting CNSC staff held near the end of January in the Davenport riding.

“It’s their inability to answer some pretty straightforward questions,” said Muir, sitting in the living room of the house he shares with his wife and two kids. “I was like, ‘What happens if there is an accident there?’” he said. “And the answer was, ‘Well there won’t be.’ That’s when I got really scared.”
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The Saugeen Ojibway Say No


Saugeen Ojibway hearings about the repository
Dr. Gordon Edwards made the following statement, which was sent to the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR) mailing list on 1 February 2020:

“The Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) has voted against Ontario Power Generation’s Deep Geological Disposal (DGR) project, planned to house all of Ontario’s Low and Intermediate Level Waste at a site within a mile of the northwestern shore of Lake Huron.

To prevent confusion: there are two DGR (Deep Geological Disposal) Projects that have been under consideration in Ontario in recent years.

One DGR is for all of Canada’s irradiated nuclear fuel (called “High :Level Waste (HLW)”). That project is under the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) acting under the authority of Canada’s Nuclear Fuel Waste Act.

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Geriatric reactors

An alarming article from the Erie, Pennsylvania-based Go Erie news outlet on the plans to extend the operation license of Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant in Homestead, Florida. The plant would not be decommissioned and/or shut down until it was 80 years old -significantly past its safe operating period. There is concern that this may lay a dangerous precedent for extending the operating licenses of other nuclear power plants beyond safe parameters and/or limit research interest into other, more environmentally friendly and sustainable energy systems.

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Recalling the Old Job at Chernobyl

Check out this interesting interview (by Quick Take (Bloomberg)) which discusses Chernobyl with a former employee and liquidator of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlVV3pgH3ac

Cleaning up the place

H-Canyon at SRS poses ‘maintenance challenge,’ DOE cleanup chief says
By Colin Demarest
Aiken Standard, 15 April 2019

This article pertains to the H-Canyon site of Savannah River – which from my understanding was a hydrogen bomb and plutonium production facility during the Cold War. More recently, it is used as a nuclear chemical separation plant.

“White’s H-Canyon comments came as a response to U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who questioned her last week during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. The hearing focused on President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget request.

Trump’s request, a goal-setting document for all intents and purposes, includes about $1.6 billion for Environmental Management work at SRS.

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Storing Waste on Lake Huron?

First Nations support alternative plans for storing nuclear waste. Previous plans indicated storage sites along the shore of Lake Huron would be used. What these new plans – and whether they are more environmentally friendly – have yet to be determined.

Sault Tribe lauds decision to abandon plan to store nuclear waste near Lake Huron

“The Sault Tribe, along with the rest of the tribes in Michigan, is pleased to see Ontario Power Generation give up on this terrible idea to build a nuclear waste storage site on the shores of the Great Lakes,” Payment said. “Since 2017, the tribes in Michigan have supported our relatives in the Saugeen Ojibway Nation in their concerns over this proposal. In addition, any threat to the Lake Huron fishery that is posed by disposal of nuclear waste so close to the Great Lakes is of deep concern to us all.”

Link: https://www.sootoday.com/sault-michigan/sault-tribe-lauds-decision-to-abandon-plan-to-store-nuclear-waste-on-lake-huron-2068256

There’s Waste in Australia too!

Transporting nuclear wastes across Australia in the age of bushfires (8 January 2020)

Excerpt: “The radiological risks associated with the transportation of spent fuel and high-level waste are well understood and are generally low, with the possible exception of risks from releases in extreme accidents involving very long duration, fully engulfing fires. While the likelihood of such extreme accidents appears to be very small, their occurrence cannot be ruled out.

Transportation planners and managers should undertake detailed surveys of transportation routes to identify potential hazards that could lead to or exacerbate extreme accidents involving very long duration, fully engulfing fires.”

And There are Fires in Russia too!

Link: https://www.americansecurityproject.org/thinking-the-unthinkable-fires-in-russia-fan-nuclear-fears/

Thinking the Unthinkable: Fires in Russia Fan Nuclear Fears (11 August 2010)

“The United States has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and years of effort to help Russia secure its nuclear stockpiles from what is euphemistically referred to as “diversion.” But the 600 wildfires raging across the Russian countryside spotlight another risk to the nuclear-industrial complex: natural disaster.

Add to the flaming peat and forest infernos, the acrid city smog and the scorched village dwellings the specter of an atomic explosion or plumes of unseen radiation. “It demonstrates that terrorists are not the only threat against Russian nuclear weapons,” Hans Kristensen, a nuclear researcher with the Federation of American Scientists, told AOL News.

Russia’s frantic manoeuvers to protect radioactive material and weapons labs suggest that the government was caught unprepared. With a state of emergency declared in the Chelyabinsk region Tuesday, vegetation was hastily stripped from around the Mayak uranium reprocessing complex. About 700 miles away, at a major lab in Sarov, troops rushed to dig a five-mile moat. Both of these sites played major roles in the development of the first Soviet atomic bomb in 1949.


The Mayak nuclear installation

Sarov, about 220 miles east of Moscow, is one of Russia’s “secret cities” closed to outsiders. A former monastery, it was the site of Design Bureau No. 11, which carried out the production and assembly of the first Soviet bomb. The complex, then known as Arzamas-16, grew into a design center for thermonuclear weapons and is still Russia’s main nuclear research laboratory. The southern part of the grounds is thickly wooded.
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Radioactive Alligators and Ant Hills

“The animal monitoring at Savannah River and its sister sites underscores a shift in attitude within the nation’s nuclear weapons establishment.

For decades during the Cold War, workers gave little regard to the environmental consequences of the weapons operation, often dumping contaminated waste in unmarked pits with no controls to keep it from spreading into soil and groundwater.”

Animals can be good biomarkers if radiation is seeping into adjacent environments – and if so – how. The article offers several case examples, such as: radioactive alligators via contaminated wetlands at the Savannah Site in Georgia; a radioactive rabbit discovered near Hanford; a radioactive ant hill near Hanford; and radioactive deer at both sites. Resources are devoted to ensuring contaminated animals do not make it off site into areas the general public frequent.

Occasionally, officials open the Savannah River site up for the public to hunt animals. It has become very popular – requiring a lottery to get tickets to be allowed to hunt on site. The lack of general public access has resulted in some healthy and mostly undisturbed wildlife. Though – all animals that are shot are tested for radioactivity before being removed from site.

However, there are other concerning elements at the Savannah River Site, such as:

“The site has 37 million gallons of highly radioactive waste stored in 49 underground tanks, 22 of which are seen as high risks for leakage because they have just a single wall and no external liner. Several streams and ponds remain polluted with radioactive contaminants, and some of those waters also are fouled with heavy metals and toxic chemicals. A September audit by Congress’ Government Accountability Office found that just emptying the high-risk tanks will cost $1.4 billion more than the original $3.2 billion estimate, and could take years longer than anticipated.”

https://srel.uga.edu/testing-toxic-cleanups-one-gator-at-a-time/

Chernobyl Forest Litter Decomposes Slowly

Apparently, regions around the Chernobyl disaster have a decreased rate of decay – due to the radiation impeding the activity and growth of fungi, insects, and microbes. Researchers additionally noted that dead trees, leaves, and fallen tree trunks are not decomposing at the same rate – leading to increased risk of intense forest fires. There is applicability for this research for other contexts beyond Chernobyl, such as Fukushima.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/forests-around-chernobyl-arent-decaying-properly-180950075/

Do they seal the old uranium mines?

An old uranium mine

I have heard that Canada has had a number of uranium mines – some of which were used during the Manhattan Project. Some are still in use, though the industry has declined in recent years. The earliest mines opened in the 1930s. During the mid-twentieth century, it appears as if the standard protocol to “seal” old mines was either flooding the mine and/or boarding it up. Many of these are in remote regions – though not all. Are these “safe” ways to seal mines? Is it possible they are leaching into surrounding environments?

Geiger Counter Flower Petals?

For low-level radioactive sites – and in other applications with radiation- certain plant species can function as a supplementary radiation detector. Of interest are spiderwort plants (in the Tradecantia genus), where the stamens (the center of the flower) mutate from blue to pink in the presence of ionizing radiation. This was initially discovered in Japan in the 1970s and has been re-iterated by several media and research articles since then. It certainly does replace the importance of Geiger counters but has potential applications for sites with low-level radioactive materials – and may be useful to detect changes in ambient radiation levels. It additionally shows the change within days of exposure to low-level ionizing radiation versus the months or years it would take (in some cases) for it to show in humans, etc.

Mutant colours

It is important to note that specific cells mutate colour and it is not the whole flower – as this species of flower comes in a number of colours naturally ranging from blue to pink to purple.

Suppose a Tsunami Hits the Dome

The dome under construction

What would happen if a tsunami hits the Cactus / Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands? In Dr. Spencer’s class on public health in the nuclear age – it was indicated that this dome was already falling apart – and that radiation levels outside the dome were equal to or greater than those inside the dome. For the unfamiliar – the dome was built in the 1970s by the United Stated Department of Energy in attempts to contain radioactive debris from their decades of nuclear testing on the atolls of the Marshall Islands.

There has been a cohort lasting decades from the researchers and other US government employees involved in these tests, called Operation Crosswords. Essentially, large chunks of radioactive concrete, metal, etc. were thrown in a crater and covered in a concrete dome. Unfortunately, the soil on atolls is porous and plans to put a more solid bottom on the dome were not followed, due to budgetary concerns. If a tsunami – say from the overdue 8-9.0 + earthquake on the eastern Pacific – hits this dome – would it launch radioactive materials into the ocean currents? What are the implications if plutonium – a side effect of which is blindness, cancers, etc. – hits the currents that lead into south-east Asia’s manufacturing districts? It would depend on the trajectory of the hypothetical tsunami – as to whether the radioactive materials would hit the Americas or Asia first. Very alarming stuff to consider! Is this a greater risk than the radioactive materials circulating from Fukushima?

Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, research was conducted in Europe in relation to nuclear powered pacemakers. One such model had a plutonium RTG battery. Would folks that had these implanted be required to be buried in a lead-lined coffin, like Marie Skłodowska-Curie?

Where does Radioactive Scrap Metal Go?

Has anyone considered the role of radioactive scrap metal inadvertently incorporated into the recycling industry? I have heard this is an issue in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Bloc areas. Of particular concern was the incorporation of mildly radioactive materials into the metal being re-purposed for built materials. Having sections of a structural support beam leaching radioactivity would potentially cause structural failure due to neutron embrittlement, irregular atomic and molecular structure, etc.
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Correction and clarification: The Georgia incident was in the village of Lia or Liya (Tsalenjikha region) and was predominantly woodcutters that were exposed – among others in the village. This was in December 2001. Two were hospitalized for months. The strontium-90 core of these devices can provide a fatal dose of radiation in approximately two minutes. Eight known RTGs were installed in Georgia in the 1980s in relation to radio relay sites for hydroelectric projects, of which two are presently missing. Allegedly the strontium-90 cores are in ceramic form, rendering it difficult for re-use in terrorism-related purposes. As of 2002, there was a bounty of $10 000 for each of the missing RTGs – as they were to be transported to Turkey. It is likely that this plan has since been cancelled.

Radioactive steel must not be reused

Yes, here in Canada, Bruce Power Corporation, the largest collection of reactors in the world were going to send radioactive steel from their plant on Lake Huron down the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River to Sweden to be reused. This was luckily stopped.

Is Grand Central Station Radioactive?

Another source of radiation exposure is the built materials of some older buildings. One that stands out in my mind is Grand Central Station in New York City. The granite materials used in its constructions are mildly radioactive. Several reports came out years ago, calculating the dose exposure of employees that worked in the station. Of note were shoe-shine boys and janitors. The walls leach radioactivity in that building, though it’s significantly less radioactivity than a Chernobyl-like event.

https://io9.gizmodo.com/grand-central-station-is-radioactive-1689028425

That being said, this could be an “urban legend” – it would be fascinating to see some official research on the topic. Are there other built materials leaching radioactivity?

Whatever Happened to those Old Uranium Mines?

Has anyone looked into the environmental exposure risks from the old uranium mines globally? A number of them began in the early 20th century and continued through the late 20th century. Some were simply flooded if they were shut down before World War 2. Could this cause leaching into the surrounding environment?

One horrifying report came out of the Northwest Territories in Canada where one of the large uranium (former pitchblende) mines used for the Manhattan Project was employing First Nations individuals to move the ore across the lake to a site where it was to be refined then shipped south. Many of these individuals developed severe forms of lung and other cancers decades later as they were inhaling radioactive particulate dust for months (if not years) on end. There were additional reports that the individuals were using old ore sacks for housing (i.e. sewn into tents) and bedding in harsher weather – increasing the radioactive dose exposure. Alarming stuff!

I Favor Small Modular Reactors, But…

Nuclear energy is a subject i am deeply concerned with. Why? because my mother died of cancer when i was 16 years old. She was sick for 6 years of my life and many others I have known have had cancer including my aunt and uncle who both died of it in different forms. I think Nuclear Energy is extremely important and needs to be utilized in a way that will safeguard against accidents and radiation leakage.

I am all for SMR’s(small modular reactors) but they need to be monitored properly. I believe the accident at chalk river might have been the factor responsible for my moms cancer, as we did a lot of traveling around Ontario and close to the accident site. My hope is responsible development of the technology and its regulated use will continue to be done but we need a strong education system that is being undermined by social conflict created by communication technologies leading to disruptions in learning and interacting.

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Are Radioactive!

Dear Richard:
SMNR still require enriched uranium and produce plutonium that can be used for making nuclear weapons. They also produce nuclear radioactive waste that we haven’t found a solution over the last 70+ years. The German KKK study found an increased risk of leukemias in children less than 5 years of age who grew up within 5 km of nuclear power reactors. This could also have a bearing on SMNR.
Richard Denton, MD

Gigantic, mysterious radiation leak traced to facility in Russia

By Ruby Prosser Scully . TECHNOLOGY July 29, 2019

The source of a gigantic, mysterious leak of radioactive material that swept across Europe in 2017 has been traced to a Russian nuclear facility, which appears to have been preparing materials for experiments in Italy.

The leak released up to 100 times the amount of radiation into the atmosphere that the Fukushima disaster did. Italian scientists were the first to raise the alarm on 2 October, when they noticed a burst of the radioactive ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere. This was quickly corroborated by other monitoring laboratories across Europe.

Georg Steinhauser at Leibniz University Hannover in Germany says he was “stunned” when he first noticed the event. Routine surveillance detects several radiation leaks each year, mostly of extremely low levels of radionuclides used in medicine. But this event was different.

“The ruthenium-106 was one of a kind. We had never measured anything like this before,” says Steinhauser. Even so, the radiation level wasn’t high enough to impact human health in Europe, although exposure closer to the site of release would have been far greater.

Read more: HBO’s Chernobyl drama highlights the human cost of nuclear catastrophe
The Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Security in Paris soon concluded that the most probable source of the leak was between the Volga river and Ural mountains in Russia. This is where Russia’s Mayak facility is located. The site, which includes a plant that processes spent nuclear fuel, suffered the world’s third most serious nuclear accident in 1957.

At the time of the 2017 leak, Russian officials denied the possibility of the facility being the source, saying there were no radioactive ruthenium traces in the surrounding soil. Instead, they suggested the source may have been a radionuclide battery from a satellite burning up during re-entry into the atmosphere.

Steinhauser and his colleagues decided to investigate more thoroughly by forensically analysing 1300 measurements from hundreds of monitoring stations across Europe. They found that radiation levels in the atmosphere were between 30 and 100 times higher than those measured after Fukushima. “This was indeed quite alarming,” says Steinhauser.

Eliminate the impossible
The team excluded Romania as the source of the accident, despite the country’s high radiation levels. Each station in the country detected the radioactive plume simultaneously, which indicated the source was far enough away for it to have grown to the width of Romania.
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Float Solar Panels on Islands

Here is a strange proposal. Build thousands of islands covered with solar panels. Use the electricity to produce hydrogen and capture the CO 2, then make fuel from it. Hmmm.

More dosimeters, please!

There should be more dosimeters available in places where radiation exposure might take place.

Scary. Apparently the soil outside and even in the ocean around it is also highly radioactive now.

Background:

To facilitate the eventual deployment of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMNRs), the nuclear industry and its regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), are lobbying to have SMNRs exempted from any form of public environmental assessment process. The less public attention, the better.

The Vice-chair of the Canadian Senate Committee examining the proposed law that is designed to govern questions of environmental assessment is also on the Board of “Canada Carbon” — a company planning to mine a deposit of exceptionally pure graphite in Quebec.

Very pure graphite is required for some types of nuclear reactors. Such high quality graphite is only required in nuclear reactors — there is no other use of graphite that necessitates such a near-total lack of impurities,

It seems a clear case of conflict of interest.

When Enrico Fermi achieved the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in Chicago, he used graphite. When the US Army built reactors at Hanford to produce plutonium for bombs, they used graphite. The Windscale nuclear reactor in Northern England required graphite, as did the Chernobyl reactor that melted down in 1986. (The Windscale reactor underwent a major nuclear accident in 1957 that spread radioactivity all over Northern Europe.)

Almost all commercial power reactors require a moderator to slow down the very fast-moving neutrons that are needed to keep the nuclear chain reaction going. If a neutron bounces off other atoms without being absorbed, it loses momentum and thereby moderates its speed. The best moderators are (1) heavy water; (2) graphite; (3) ordinary water, called “light water”.

A moderator must be free of impurities that absorb neutrons, for that would diminish the number of neutrons available for nuclear fission. Such a loss of neutrons is clearly undesirable.

Some nuclear reactors, like the Canadian CANDU design, use heavy water as moderator. Others, like the British fleet of 26 MAGNOX reactors and 14 Advanced Gas-Cooled reactors, use graphite as moderator. The Russian fleet of RBMK reactors, 11 of which were still operating in 2017, also used graphite for this purpose. Most other reactors, including the American and French designs, use ordinary water, called “light water”, as a moderator.

Very pure graphite can be used also as a “neutron reflector” — by bouncing escaping neutrons back into the core of the reactor. This allows a smaller volume of nuclear fuel to undergo more fissions than would otherwise be the case. Just as reflecting mirrors can magnify the light given off by a candle, so a neutron reflector can magnify the energy produced by a given amount of nuclear fuel.

The nuclear industry is currently fighting a losing battle in North America and Western Europe. Old reactors are being shut down and new ones are not being built. In a desperate effort to keep the industry afloat, nuclear proponents are seeking public subsidies to create a new generation of “Small Modular Nuclear Reactors” (SMNRs) that can be built in a factory and transported to various locations, some of them small and isolated communities.

To reduce the size of the reactor, a neutron reflector is helpful. To minimize the threat of radioactive spills, a solid moderator may be preferred to a liquid one. For certain SMNR designs, pure graphite will be in demand — if the dreams of the nuclear industry are ever to succeed.